Michigan: Winning team press conference, part 1

LifeLock 400 Post-Race Transcript An interview with: MARK MARTIN - Winner ALAN GUSTAFSON - Crew chief RICK HENDRICK - Owner KERRY THARP: We're pleased to be joined by today's race winner, Mark Martin. He drives the No. 5 Carquest/Kellogg's...

LifeLock 400 Post-Race Transcript

An interview with:

KERRY THARP: We're pleased to be joined by today's race winner, Mark Martin. He drives the No. 5 Carquest/Kellogg's Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports. It is Mark's fifth win here at Michigan International Speedway, and his 38th career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory. He moves up to I believe it is eighth in the points.

Congratulations. Eighth in points, Mark. We have crew chief Alan Gustafson, and of course car owner Rick Hendrick.

Mark, take us through today's series of events and your thoughts about winning here today at Michigan.

MARK MARTIN: First of all, this is the first time Rick has been with us doing this. This is really extra special. It's the first time Arlene has been at the race, too. This is extra special.

Winning with a surprise, for some reason it's always one of the most fun. The surprise win in the All Star Race in '98 was one that I always remember. This is really cool.

You know, everybody knows that we have had some horrendous luck this year, and it's put us pretty far back. We are on the outside looking in to the Chase. We had a great racecar, but for me, I always, always come up short on the gas mileage thing. I always have. If you look at the stats, you know, I've lost 25 and won two probably on it. You know, I just don't have the luck for it.

I saw the pace they were wanting to run, and I started saving from the third lap. After I got my track position, I started trying to save. And the car worked perfectly to save fuel today. I was in a position that I could. Last week we weren't. We restarted fifth, and if a lap or two we were in 11th. All the guys that had stopped and gotten topped off with gas were on me, and we couldn't save. We weren't in position. The car wasn't good enough.

But today it was. It was important to me to finish this race. If we were in the top five in points, I would have run out today because I would have went after it. But, you know, we just weren't. I just had to let 'em go do their thing. I couldn't save gas and run that pace that they were trying to run both.

When the 48 ran out, I knew the 16 was just right up there. I was just lollygagging. I got past the start/finish line. Came on the radio and said, I've got fuel pressure right now, I'm gonna go for it. I jumped on the gas, ran hard. I couldn't believe how much I was gaining on him through the corner. Then all of a sudden I got on the straightaway, I was really gaining on him. It was like, Whoa! Oh, he's out (laughter). A lot of stuff was happening then.

When we came off four, ours started running out. Our battery had been going dead since lap 75. Been nursing no fans all throughout the race, batteries back and forth, all this different stuff.

After the race was over, I shut it off at the start/finish line, coasted all the way around. I was gonna try to fire it up just to get it in Victory Lane. It wouldn't even spin over. So it ran exactly as far as it was gonna run. We had our hands full if we were going to try to go another lap or another mile. That was cool.

KERRY THARP: Crew chief Alan Gustafson. Alan, how nerve wracking were those last few laps for you up on the pit box?

ALAN GUSTAFSON: That caution was untimely again. Second week in a row. We knew four laps before our window we couldn't go. So we just saved as much gas as we could, tried to just back up to the guys behind us. Mark saved a lot, was fairly confident in that. It's not an exact science. We just do the best job we can. We know what mileage we need to make it, but you don't know. He's out there running and you don't know.

Jimmie ran out here.  I could see that happened.  Jimmie has about the exact
same car we had.  We knew if Biffle ran that fast, he would be in the same
position.  Mark came on the radio, The 16 ran out on the back.  Obviously
then getting pretty excited.  We're trying to go.  Mark came on the radio
and said, I'm out all four.  Next thing I'm looking for the 24.  It was two
seconds back.  We coasted across.  It was a great win.  Really proud of the
guys.  We had a really good car.  We struggled in qualifying.  We didn't get
Mark the car he needed to qualify.  A lot of green flag runs.  It wasn't an
easy race.  We fought that battery issue all day.  But we drove up there,
you know.  We were in position to win it.
I think if we had gas, we could have raced them.  I don't know that we could
have beat them.  But we definitely could have ran with them.  We didn't win
it on gas.  But the team did a great job getting us a wonderful
Carquest/Kellogg's Chevy, with the motor, bodies, chassis.  Of course, we
got the best driver driving it.  We got what we wanted.

KERRY THARP: Rick, as Mark alluded to, he's got three wins this season. This is the first one you've been able to be here in person and actually enjoy. Congratulations. Your thoughts about this victory today?

RICK HENDRICK: Well, I want everyone to take a good look at him. I mean, he had no cooling, fans were off, the batteries were switching. The car had to be terribly hot inside. He gets out like he hasn't run five laps. I mean, that's just a real inspiration to me (laughter).

It was a great win. Alan and Mark just do a phenomenal job. They've had really rough luck this year, and have been able to pull off three wins. Just real proud of 'em.

This race was more important to get in the Chase than it was to win the race. We could not afford to gamble and fall out and not finish up front to get the points to be in the Chase. It would be a shame to have two or three wins and not make that thing.

They did a heck of a job. Really proud of Mark. Alan has been one of the smartest, most loyal guys that ever worked for our organization. Mark has brought an inspiration and motivation to all of us, drivers, crew chiefs, every employee over there. This is a great win for us here in Michigan, with all the manufacturers here. So it's been a great day.

KERRY THARP: We'll start with questions, please.

Q: Mark, as you mentioned, of all these fuel mileage races you've been in, if you could somehow set yourself apart from being the winner of this and think of it as a participant, can you think of any that had this many twists, turns, drama, euphoria, that sort of thing? Can you think of a more complex and interesting finish to a fuel mileage race?

MARK MARTIN: No. Usually, as you know, they're not very exciting, you know, don't wind up making a good show. I think the fans really got a great show here. You got two guys wrestling for the win, which is what everybody wants to see, and then you got a surprise winner coming out of it. A lot of drama.

You know, it's really cool to be a part of it, you know. It's really cool to come out on the good end of it. I asked Alan how many guys behind us stopped for fuel. He said almost nobody. So, you know, it was one of those situations that everybody needed to make it work, the distance that we had. Lucky for us we had the perfect balance between the speed and the savings.

Q: You've been here so many times before. How much did experience play out in what you needed to do over those closing laps?

MARK MARTIN: Well, it started at lap 75. It didn't really start there. You know, like I said, we're on the outside looking in on the points. Like Rick said, it was gonna be a shame to not to be able to use those bonus points, miss the Chase, have those bonus points racked up, not be able to use them.

When our battery problem started, I got sick at my stomach. Here we go, another day. They have a very nice system, and that helped make it last. But the biggest thing was, as bad as I wanted to not have the fans for the brakes and for the front tires and all the different things that are really important, the back blower, my helmet blower and everything else, I tried to leave the helmet blower on with no AC, just a fan, and I ran that till about 75 to go, then it started losing. It wouldn't keep up. I started losing power. For a long time it seemed like it charged enough to maintain a low volts, but still okay. It finally got where it was falling. It was starting to fall at the end with both batteries.

So we started a strategy to make it I started a strategy from the things that I could do before halfway. I got a good start on that last start. Immediately when I got in position, you know, my history is not good on these things, so I started, by lap two or three...

RICK HENDRICK: You got to quit that (laughter).

MARK MARTIN: If I hadn't done it, I wouldn't have made it. I started on the third lap, for sure, if not the second lap already, for sure on the third lap after that restart, I started.

You know, I asked him what we were going to do about it. He said, Run hard for 10, we'll save a bunch at the end. Not me, I'll run out. We could have run out, too.

The car did a lot of the work.  I only did some of the work.  You can't save
when the car doesn't work.  And when you don't have track position, you
don't have everything else.  Last week we got bit by it.  We didn't have the
car at the end of the race.  We had a good car all race long.  The last run
it was not.  We got passed by everybody.  I couldn't save gas.

So this all played in my hands today.

Q: Rick, last night Kyle Busch credited how much Joey Logano had learned from Mark in saving his car till the end. Is Mark as much a plus to your organization in addition to his driving ability?

RICK HENDRICK: Absolutely. There's a word in the sport: respect. Alan will tell you this. I've worked with a lot of drivers and been around a lot of drivers. He's probably as good as I've ever seen on a chassis, reading the chassis, knowing what he wants, and then knowing how to run the race. He's very, very focused. He's like a computer. When he sits down with those other drivers, he starts explaining his car, they listen. I mean, that was what Jeff Gordon told me before we ever got him to come over. He said, He'll help us all. You know, Jimmie said that. After about two or three races, Junior said, You need to get him to run a couple more years (laughter).

So it's everything from the way you read the car, from the physical conditioning, the shape he's in and the regimen he has. I mean, he adds so much to the entire organization. You know, it's so many different areas, and you see it. There was not a car in Darlington that didn't have a Darlington stripe on it. His car didn't have a mark on it, not a mark. To be able to run that race and run that hard. The first race Alan and I had him with him was in the Busch car. I had him when he didn't have a crew chief, crew chief got suspended, he called the race from the car in the Busch Series. I've been in awe of him ever since the first race.

I mean, if you list all the different categories that you want to list for a driver, he's at the top on every one of them. It radiates through the organization.

Q: Mark, at this point in the season with three wins under your belt, are you glad you didn't retire, and aren't you glad you hooked up with Hendrick Motorsports?

MARK MARTIN: I'm really glad that Rick was so persistent, yeah (laughter).

RICK HENDRICK: I'm not sure I was that persistent. I think he was dragging the bait a little bit.

MARK MARTIN: That's not true. I know it looks like that.

RICK HENDRICK: There's the boss over there.

MARK MARTIN: She's the one we had to get softened up (laughter).

Yeah, this is incredible. And I didn't have any idea. She and I were both apprehensive about coming back full time because I'd been so happy in '07 and '08 doing what I was doing. I didn't have any idea it could be like this. I'm really, really, really having fun. Alan and I keep getting more comfortable with one another. And I believe that we've still got a ways to go. I think when we have a bad day, we will handle it better later. We're already better, a lot better than we were in California. That was pretty tough on both of us. I think we've come a long way. I think we'll continue to get better in that sense.

Of course, you know, probably communication will get better. I think we'll both get more comfortable. I continue to get more comfortable with Alan. It's great to go to work every day, except for Friday was kind of a tough day.

RICK HENDRICK: Tell them what you called and told me Friday.

MARK MARTIN: You know, he thinks I'm full of it. I didn't think I was going to get fired right now, but if I keep qualifying 32nd every week, he needs to fire me. Everybody can act like that's stupid, but it isn't really stupid. I'm serious. If I can't do better than that in the stuff that they're giving me, they're going to need to get somebody else.

We came back on Saturday, and we won practice. That's the best that I could do. I couldn't make up for Friday, but I was flogging it pretty hard out there on Saturday to make sure that we looked good.

It's great.  I love the sport.  I don't know what in the world I'll do when
I can't do this anymore, but that's a long way out there.  I'm not worried
about it right now.  I'm enjoying it.

Continued in part 2

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Joey Logano , Kyle Busch